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Farmingdale, Nassau suspend outdoor dining in village after 'misunderstanding'

Nassau County police and the Nassau County Fire

Nassau County police and the Nassau County Fire Marshall's office responded to Main Street in Farmingdale Village Friday evening after restaurants set up tables on sidewalks. Credit: Bryan Lopez

Farmingdale and Nassau County officials said they will suspend outdoor dining in the village after 1,500 people gathered on Main Street in Farmingdale on Friday night.

State officials have not approved Nassau County’s outdoor dining proposal to allow restaurants to use county roads while waiting for the state to reopen restaurants on Long Island.

Farmingdale Mayor Ralph Ekstrand said Saturday that Nassau County fire marshals told the village's 45 restaurants that outdoor tables on village sidewalks were also not permitted. Warnings were given and no citations were issued.

Restaurants had reopened following the county’s proposal, adding 400 seats and tables, spaced 6 feet apart,  on village sidewalks. About 1,500 people were eating and walking down Main Street.

But Ekstrand said he misunderstood the county and state permitting process, requiring chairs and tables to be provided by municipalities, rather than the restaurants, which would constitute in-restaurant dining not allowed until Phase Three of the state's coronavirus reopening plan.

“It was a total misunderstanding,” Ekstrand said. “It appears the municipality had to own the tables and chairs people were sitting at, even though they were placed on sidewalks and village property.”

State officials said Saturday, however, that outdoor dining, considered a nonessential gathering, is currently not allowed in any region of the state, even at village-owned tables on village property. Using county roads, as Nassau has proposed, is also not permitted.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said Saturday that her proposal was to streamline the permitting process in the next week, akin to letting residents eat on a park bench by using municipal tables.

Ekstrand said he is asking the state to consider modifying outdoor dining as part of Phase Two. He said the village does not have and would not buy tables and chairs and would apply for a county permit Monday to use Main Street for outdoor dining.

 “People are antsy. People need to get out and want to do something. They’re dying to go out there to look at different things,” Ekstrand said. “They’re depressed, anxious and unsure. Getting outside and walking around is a cure for that.” 

State officials said outdoor dining will be allowed as regions reopen while meeting certain health metrics.

“After public health-based guidelines are released, local governments should cut through red tape and maximize the outdoor space available to New Yorkers — this is the type of creative thinking needed to build back better, and we are glad Nassau County is planning ahead,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s spokesman Jack Sterne said.

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